Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), or FDR, was the 32nd president of the United States and the only commander in chief to be elected more than twice. Have you heard the saying that the only thing to fear is fear itself? Well, Roosevelt said this during his first inaugural address, at a time the nation was suffering economically as well as recovering from one world war only to be headed towards the second: “This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and prosper … [T]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York. He attended Harvard University where he became close with his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt. Franklin married Theodore’s niece, Elanor Roosevelt, who was responsible for opening the future president’s eyes to the poor communities.
During the 1920 presidential election, Franklin was on the ticket as vice president with James M. Cox, but the Democrats lost in a landslide to Calvin Coolidge and Warren G. Harding. And then, in 1932, FDR was elected the 32nd president of the United States.
Roosevelt White House
Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4, 1933. It was a difficult time, as Americans were caught in the middle of the Great Depression with 13 million people unemployed and WWII coming. His inaugural speech in which he said there was nothing to fear but fear itself was the first ever to be broadcast over the radio.
One of the biggest actions the new president took during his first 100 days in office was to close all banks for several days until reform laws could be passed. Once the Emergency Banking Relief Act was passed, three out of four banks were able to open within a week. Also during this time, he created new legislation for programs and institutions of the New Deal. These included the following programs:
FDR was re-elected in 1936. The Supreme Court had ruled against many of his laws and programs, so FDR came up with a plan. For every sitting justice 70 years old or older who refused to retire, he would appoint another justice who would be more friendly to what he wanted to do. It wasn’t very popular in Congress, but the president was so popular with the people that many senators and representatives were afraid to oppose it.
The Supreme Court actually managed to stop the court packing plan themselves. They stopped opposing FDR’s programs and started supporting them instead. This gave Congress a way out of passing the bill to pack the court. It saved the Supreme Court from being loaded with new justices – but it also left the people with programs that the Court would have called unconstitutional.
Roosevelt won the 1940 election and started his third term in 1941. In August 1941, he met with Great Britain’s prime minister, Winston Churchill. The two created the Atlantic Charter and declared the “Four Freedoms” on which the post-war world should be founded. These were: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and Roosevelt, with approval from Congress, declared war on Japan.
Roosevelt was once again re-elected president in 1944 just as the war was starting to turn towards the Allies. The president was already exhausted from his overwhelming job, and he had suffered from polio since the age of 39. In February, he met with Churchill and Joseph Stalin in the Yalta Conference, gaining the latter’s support in the war.
After the conference, FDR was so weak that he could not stand when he addressed Congress. In April 1945, he traveled to his cottage in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. He died on April 12, 1945, and his vice president, Harry S. Truman, became president.